How Infection helps the Immune System

Molly and Isabelle with Chicken Pox

Molly and Isabelle with Chicken Pox

Prevention of infectious diseases is seen universally as beneficial to the health of society. Typhoid fever a contagion whose deadly swirlcould decimate entire districts in weeks, melted away as the putrid water supplies of several cities were cleansed. Tuberculosis the infamous “white plague” of the nineteenth century was vanishing its incidence plummeting by more than half between 1910 and 1940, largely due to better sanitation and public hygiene, life expectancy jumped from 47 to 68 in half a century.

The Victorians put cleanliness next to godliness in their effors to prevent disease

The Victorians put cleanliness next to godliness in their effors to prevent disease

Infection due to poor hygiene had been a main cause of death for thousands of years. Florence Nightingale change attitudes showing good hygiene saved more lives than doctors with her research at the hospitals looking after the wounded in the Crimea War.  The Victorians put this into practice with quasi religious zeal -carbolic soap became the savior of humanity and according  to the wonderful (even though she advocates vaccinations) Dr Alice Roberts (Don’t Die Young)  These practices probably saved more lives than antibiotics which were discovered in 1928. Roberts goes on to explain how an infants immune response, begins with a very general response to bugs and  becomes more specific from exposure to various bacteria and viruses.

“If the immune system is shielded from bugs it does not get a chance to become specific and the generalized response remains leading to atopy (allergies) and asthma. A baby that spends time with lots of other children, in a big family or nursery, or who grows up close to animals, and gets infections (especially viral infections like colds, measles and chicken pox) is less likely to develop atopic illnesses. While a child in a small family with high standards of hygiene, who is given antibiotics early in life, is more likely to get asthma, eczema and hay fever”.

Infectious diseases have played a role in the development of the immune system through natural selection and through vaccination we are artificially selecting a weaker gene pool who have not been exposed to normal infections. Then moving away from good practice like hand washing and over use of anti biotics is creating a whole new range of health problems that were thought in the past. A silent epidemic of typhoid that is resistant to multiple antibiotics is spreading across Africa, posing a fresh threat to public health, according to a landmark genetic study of the organism. This study published in august 2015 showed how important hand washing is in the fight against bacteria and viruses and good practice has been down graded by our increased reliance on pharmaceuticals to fight disease

The long-term impact of preventing infections through vaccination is not well understood.  Some studies have found that childhood infections seem to give protection from other diseases. Alm, Swartz, Lilja, Scheynius and Pershagen (1999) found that the children who took fewer antibiotics and had a less vaccines, also had a lower prevalence of asthma , eczema and hay fever than the controls.

Bodner, Anderson, Reid and Godden (2000) reported that children who contracted measles are significantly less likely to go on and develop asthma, a disease that was extremely rare thirty years ago and now kills 2000 people per year in the UK. Another study they did in 2005 published in the British Medical Journal showed that children who attended day care and were exposed to infections were less likely to develop Leukaemia later in life   This was my response to the article in the British Medical Journal  2005. Another study published in the British medical Journal in 2001 found that; repeated viral infections other than lower respiratory tract infections early in life may reduce the risk of developing asthma up to school age

In 2000 Hurwitz and Morgenstern concluded that DPT vaccination increased the risk of allergy but cautioned that the small numbers of children who do not vaccinate limit the ability of studies to make firm causal inferences about the true magnitude of the effect. Ethical issues prevent these studies being done because a comparison random group would not be vaccinated.

Shaheen, Aaby and Hall (1996) found a specific inverse relationship between contracting measles and atopic diseases.  Kemp, Pearce and Fitzharris (1997) found that a small sample of children who did not have DPT or polio immunisation did not suffer from asthma or other allergic illnesses compared with 23 per cent. of the main sample who suffered asthma episodes and 30 per cent. who suffered other allergic illnesses.

Kramer, Heinrich, Wjst and Wichmann (1999) supported the hypothesis that early infection may protect against allergies later in life. Gibbon, Smith, Egger, Betts and Phillips (1997) found that children who suffered infections in the first year of life were less likely to develop insulin dependent diabetes. Classen and Classen (1999) found that immunised children had twice the incidence of diabetes type 1. however the industry has produced many studies to contradict these findings. In 2012 researches found immunity problems after the flu vaccine

In recent years there has been an exponential rise in autoimmune diseases , a massive increase since the elimination of what were once considered normal childhood illnesses. Brunkreft and Holgate (2002) blamed air pollution and Kleinhart (2000) proposes the “hygiene hypothesis” as a possible factor, no one seems to want to point the finger at vaccines. After six months four of the NCT children in our group (picture) were showing asthmatic signs after their DTaP and booster vaccines

There is no doubt that vaccination reduced the incidence of measles and other childhood diseases in Cuba at a time when sanitation, nutrition and housing was poor.  Cuba now has achieved life expectancy and infant mortality rates similar to developed countries. However, it also has a high prevalence of eczema and asthma similar to North America and Europe (MacDonald,1999). Johnston and Openshaw (2001), while praising  mass immunisation, challenge the medical profession to find ways of producing the protective effects of early childhood infections in young children. There is no doubt mass vaccination programmes along with better housing have reduced incidence of infectious diseases but has it also reduced the ability of their immune systems to fight infection making them susceptible to autoimmune disorders.

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About Richard

Richard Lanigan 57 is the parent of four children, he was awarded a Masters in Health Promotion at Brunell University in 2004 he has practiced chiropractic at his practice Spinal Joint in Kingston Upon Thames since 1996 providing care for thousands of children
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One Response to How Infection helps the Immune System

  1. David Thomas says:

    I wonder if you can give me some advice as to how one goes about organising a ‘single’ vaccine programme for an infant?

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